What if a rough draft didn’t have to be so rough? That’s essentially the question that clay modelers wrestle with every day, according to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Chief of Design Giles Taylor.
In a recent interview with The Telegraph, the mid-40s veteran from Jaguar talked about the powerful influence exerted by the ones who shape the clay. These modelers essentially cast the shapes that the mass-production machines will use to churn out body panels.
Many people don’t know that every digital 3D model of a car has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere turns out to be earthy, finger-staining and filled with a heady aroma that some have dubbed the smell of creativity.
Taylor joined Rolls-Royce in 2011, and became its design chief the following year. Previously at Jaguar he helped shape the XK and XJ. As a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London, he understands that designers rely on clay modelers to make their sketches and drawings real physical objects.
Designers produce the vision, or first iteration, of the vehicles. Clay modelers then work with the designers to create a body that translates into a full three-dimensions. There are many contours that don’t manifest themselves on paper, and are quite a surprise when a clay body is fashioned. The two groups work to find the soul of the car in the clay: plane by contour, curve by line.
“You have to have full-sized models,” Taylor said to students at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. “You have to stand 20, 30, 50 feet away to understand a car. When you see a car way up an avenue it’s either interesting or you turn and walk away.”
The Ghost Series II is the newest Rolls-Royce to bear Taylor’s influence, including such slight differences as a half-inch height increase for the front hood. Clay models will be coated with Di-Noc, a special layer meant to catch light. Overhead lights are turned off, and the car studied in minute detail, looking for opportunities to raise a line here, erase one over there.
Eventually designers and clay modelers are satisfied, and the whole thing digitized. Off it goes to the computer world, and voila! A car is born. Some people think cars should be created entirely in the digital world, but Taylor has his own sense:
“You’ll point it out to a modeler, ask him to make more of it and he’ll say, ‘Okay. Come back this afternoon’ – and it will be there! He’s found it! It’s like what Michelangelo said about David: it was always there in the marble, it was just his job to find it.”